In most places in India, when a woman gets married, she gives up her space and lets go of her cherished material attachments. Going into a new house, a woman is expected to start appreciating and often own a completely new space, its people, its material things and its systems. Some of us women might tend to approach this ‘adaptation’ with the intent of ‘fitting in’. Somehow, we are expected to and often find ourselves wanting to adapt to the new surroundings, doing what it would take to ‘please’ people around us to create an environment of peace and harmony. Very often, bending backwards has no limit and even if you were the best acrobat in the world, figuratively, you could never bend backwards enough to deserve applause from your in-laws!
If only Darwin was alive – he could perhaps have cited a detailed case study of an Indian bride while writing about ‘the survival of the fittest’. It is, after all, a classic case of a living being getting uprooted from a comfortable and secure environment, being thrown into a completely new setting and being left with pretty much no guidance on how to survive. Even though some urban women might contest this scenario, I would argue that irrespective of class, religion or region, this does hold true for the most part. Even women who might join finishing schools are not spared, as no school that I am aware of, teaches the secret to form and maintain a wonderful relationship with in-laws.
Think back to the time when you just got married. If you accepted everything that came your way, chances are, you may not be completely ecstatic about your present life. If you, however, remember having had some tough conversations, mostly about defending yourself or taking a stand, hopefully you have been able to reap the benefits and command respect for yourself.
Creating your happiness in a new environment is less about creating your physical space in the form of clothes or jewelry or a larger bed or a car and is more about creating space in the minds and hearts of people around you. Creating your own space and a new identity in congruence with your original self is tougher, takes more time and often encompasses dealing with resistance and heartbreaks. It means speaking your mind, standing up for what you believe is right, challenging the norm, making bold recommendations and often, role modeling the culture you expect to create. It is really the most stringent on-the-job ‘leadership’ training that I have witnessed. If you have been in a working environment, you might resonate with having trouble conceding to the demands of a new household, think of it as a leadership challenge. Why should your goal be just to ‘settle in’? Why not take charge and ‘lead from the front’?
As they say, if you don’t have your own dream, someone will get you to follow theirs. So whose dream do you choose to follow?
This post is a reproduction of my weekly column written for The Goan (http://thegoan.net).